White House senior adviser Stephen Miller indicated on Monday that President Donald Trump has not quite made the decision to shut down the border, saying it depends on how the week goes, according to notes from a conference call taken by a listener and obtained by CNN.
"We will see how much progress we are able to make in the ensuing days, in terms of getting more enforcement with Central and South America, so that we are not getting swamped by meritless asylum claims predominantly from Central America," Miller told top administration immigration surrogates on a conference call, according to the notes.
Trump repeated his threat on Friday to close the border between the US and Mexico, and said he would act this week if Mexico didn't step up.
"If Mexico doesn't immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States throug (sic) our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week," he tweeted.
Miller's comments on the call signal that White House officials hope their threats will motivate Central American countries to take action and step up enforcement.
The Trump administration is cutting off aid to the Central American countries El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the State Department said. The announcement came a day after Trump blamed the countries for migrant caravans that have come to the US southern border recently, and said that "we're not paying them anymore because they haven't done a thing for us."
Specifically, Miller wants Mexico to deport undocumented migrants from Central America who are passing through the country on the way to the US.
"If Mexico deported the caravan members, it would help a lot in ending the caravan's threat," he said.
On the call, Miller described asylum claims as "baseless" and "meritless."
"The whole system incentivizes the abuse of the asylum system and the lodging of baseless claims to enter the United States," he said, according to the notes.
Miller blamed court decisions and Congress for not closing legal "loopholes" that he said incentivize illegal immigration. He said the situation has reached "emergency and catastrophic proportions."
The call comes as other White House officials attempt to warn Trump about the consequences of shutting down the border.
One administration official warned that the effects of doing so could be "catastrophic" and a White House official said that "we could be in a whole world of hurt" if the President decides to close the border.
Trump has been briefed several times since last year about the economic consequences of shutting US ports of entry at the southern border but has continued to contemplate the idea of closing sections or the border in its entirety. And some of his closest advisers have encouraged him to follow through.
The President has polled several of his political advisers in the last week, one source familiar with the discussions said. And while some have warned him about the economic consequences, several have relished the prospect of another dramatic move that would call attention to what they have described as an illegal immigration crisis on the southern border.
Miller said on the call that Trump is not bringing up his threat to shut down the border lightly.
"The President is committed to the threat because it is an issue of fundamental national security," Miller said, according to the notes.